After a lifetime of contributions to the field of virology, Robert E. Shope died on Jan. 19 in Galveston, Texas. Shope was a professor emeritus in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Yale School of Medicine, as well as a professor of Pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch Center for Tropical Disease in Galveston, Texas. He was 74.
One of the foremost researchers in his field, Shope received many distinguished awards. He also authored over 150 scientific articles and 75 book chapters, and led investigations of many human-pathogenic viruses such as Rift Valley fever, Lassa fever and Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever.
Epidemiology Professor Emeritus Frank Black, one of Shope’s colleagues, said Shope was “easy to get along with.”
“I think that Bob was certainly deserving of the notoriety he attained,” said Black. “He was a quiet man, but influential nevertheless.”
Shope graduated from Cornell Medical College in 1951 and went on to complete his residency in internal medicine at Yale. He spent more than 30 years at the University, serving in various positions on the EPH faculty. He served as head of the Yale Arbovirus Research Unit and the Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Research and Reference. He retired from Yale in 1995 and went on to join the faculty of UTMB.
Shope’s career was wide-ranging in every sense of the word. His research led him to such diverse locations as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the Amazon region of Brazil. He served as a medical officer in the Army, a co-director of the World Health Organization’s World Reference Center for Arboviruses and president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
In 1992, Shope co-edited the book “Emerging Infections: Microbial Threats to Health in the United States,” which became a best-seller in the academic community. In 1997, Shope was a part of a select group of scientists invited to the White House to brief President Clinton on the nature of the threat of global warming. Most recently, he worked for the National Academy of Sciences, developing the Health and Global Climate Change program and the Combating Civilian Bioterrorism program.
Shope was the recipient of many awards from departments in which he worked. He was an active researcher until a month before his death, when he was hospitalized due to complications from a lung-transplant operation.
Shope is survived by his wife, three siblings, four children and six grandchildren. The UTMB is establishing a scholarship for students studying arboviruses and emerging infections.